Straining Forward to Christ 


Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14) 

St Paul says he has not yet attained the perfect spiritual life, but rather he is ever pressing toward that goal in Christ. Perfection in the mind of St Gregoy of Nyssa is not a plateau to be reached, but rather is the striving towards God, which has no plateau. Perfection is growing endlessly, yet there is a goal – Jesus Christ. Metroplitan Anthony Bloom writes: 

In what I have said, in the description that I have given of our shortcomings, it was clear that there was an ideal, an absolute standard towards which we should aim. At the same time it is obvious that none of us – indeed, not even the saints whose lives we can read – have fulfilled or do fulfill this perfection. There is always something unfulfilled, imperfect. 


And this is a tension in which we all find ourselves. Unless we have a vision of the absolute, we cannot tend towards it. At the same time we must not despair of what we are, because we cannot judge our own condition; we can judge only one thing: the degree to which we long for fulfillment, the degree to which we long to be worthy of God, worthy of love, worthy of compassion — and worthy not because of any achievements of ours, but because of the longing, the hunger, and the trust that we can give to the Lord. (CHURCHIANITY VS CHRISTIANITY, pp 10-11) 


We are to ever press forward to the goal, that is the nature of the spiritual life for Christians. The goal is ever before us and we keep moving in that direction toward the eschaton. We will not find it by looking for some past ‘golden age’ or by trying to make the present ever more like the past.  We will not find it by discovering the historical Jesus.  The past is the wrong direction for it is what lies behind that St Paul forgets in his love for Christ. The Kingdom of God is still ahead of us.  Christ glorified is whom we are seeking. We will not even find it at Golgotha or at the Holy Sepulchre because they too belong to the past. Even interpretations of the Liturgy which focus on the past are looking in the wrong direction. We find it in Christ who still lies ahead of us. The Liturgy orients us in that direction to the Kingdom and life in the world which is still to come.  We are to read the Bible not to discover the past but to find our way to God’s coming Kingdom.


I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29)